On June 25, 2022, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) into law. Among other provisions aimed at reducing gun violence, BSCA requires the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to conduct an enhanced background check before any sale or transfer of a firearm to a person under the age of 21 (U21). In addition to the traditional records databases reviewed during a standard background check, these U21 checks involve expanded outreach by the FBI’s NICS Section to state and local officials who may have access to additional disqualifying information.
Since implementing BSCA’s enhanced background checks in October 2022, the FBI NICS Section has conducted enhanced background checks on more than 200,000 transactions. Those checks have kept more than 1,900 firearms out of the hands of dangerous and prohibited persons, and over a quarter of those denials — 527 as of the first week of January — were based solely on information received through the additional BSCA-enabled outreach. Without the enhanced outreach required by BSCA, these 527 U21 transactions would likely have proceeded because the disqualifying information was otherwise unavailable to NICS.
“In the 19 months since the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the law’s expanded background checks have already kept 500 firearms out of the hands of young people who are prohibited from having them,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will continue to bring to bear every tool we have to combat the gun violence that plagues our communities.”
The 500th BSCA-specific U21 denial — which was recorded on Dec. 18, 2023 — involved a prospective purchaser whose transaction was denied after a state police officer provided records, otherwise not available to NICS, that showed the prospective purchaser to be an unlawful user of, or addicted to, a controlled substance. Other exemplary U21 denials include:
- A sheriff’s office responded to the NICS Section with an incident report implicating the U21 purchaser in a rape offense. The NICS Section obtained court documentation establishing that the purchaser was convicted of felony rape. The transaction was denied based on the federal prohibitor for persons convicted of a crime punishable by more than one year.
- A sheriff’s office responded to the NICS Section with an incident report indicating that the U21 purchaser had been arrested for attempted murder and other offenses. The NICS Section obtained court documentation showing that the U21 purchaser was released on bond with court-ordered firearm restrictions pending the resolution of those charges. The transaction was denied based on a state prohibitor for active court-ordered firearm restrictions.
- During BSCA-mandated outreach, a juvenile court provided documentation establishing that a U21 purchaser was found to be mentally ill and involuntarily committed for mental-health treatment. The transaction was denied based on the federal firearm prohibitor relating to mental-health adjudications.
- A police department informed the NICS Section that the U21 purchaser was under felony indictment for sexually exploiting a minor. The transaction was denied based on the federal firearm prohibitor for persons under active felony indictment.
- During BSCA-mandated outreach, a county court provided the NICS Section with documentation that the U21 purchaser had sustained juvenile adjudications for sexual battery, possession of a knife at school, and intimidation. The transaction was denied based on a state prohibitor for disqualifying juvenile adjudications.
- A sheriff’s office informed the NICS Section that a U21 purchaser was currently in jail on multiple pending charges, including domestic violence, robbery, and assault with a dangerous weapon. The transaction was denied based on the federal firearm prohibitor for persons under active felony indictment.
- A police department provided the NICS Section with an incident report for a U21 purchaser who was making suicidal threats and transported for emergency detention at a local in-patient psychiatric center. The transaction was denied based on the federal firearm prohibitor relating to mental-health adjudications.
The FBI continues to engage in extensive education and outreach efforts to improve the state and local partnerships necessary to the success of these enhanced background checks, including by hosting trainings for over 500 law-enforcement agencies and more than 2,000 state criminal-justice officials.